Discover Scotland Tour: Castles, Lakes, Whisky Tasting, Loch Ness, Steam Train & More

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Total Trip:

9 Days
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Countries Visited:

Scotland
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Places Visited:

Edinburgh, Inverness, Oban, Loch Ness, St. Andrews, Fife
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Departure Dates:

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Discover the Highlands and you uncover much more about Scotland than just the landscape. History unfolds and the people open up. Legends abound and the entire country seems to have been derived from tales out of a storybook. This 9-day custom discovery tour of Scotland gives you lakes and mountains, castles and steam trains, cobblestone streets, cathedral towers and whisky tastings all wrapped around the fabled Scottish Highlands. The landscape itself seems unreal at times, filled with immense

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Day 1

Starting at the Base

When you arrive in Edinburgh the picturesque buildings of Old Town charm you immediately. Edinburgh Castle stands atop Castle Rock and has stood watch over the city for a millennium. Your private transfer meets you at the airport and takes you to a hotel at the heart of the city. After you settle in your guide will meet you at the hotel for a half-day tour of the exceptional city. The Royal Mile is a network of cobblestone streets that lead from the castle gates to Holyrood Palace. It runs a total of 321 feet through Old Town. Parliament Square houses the old Parliament building. A clock tower rises from St. Giles’ Cathedral. The West Door contains a heart-shaped pattern in the cobblestone street known as the Heart of Midlothian.

The mosaic is made of colorful granite sets and marks the position of the Old Tolbooth, a 14th century prison. When your guide passes the marker he spits. He informs you that many locals do it for good luck and to show contempt for the historic former prison. The street is wide and full of jovial locals and visitors alike. Colorful storefronts provide lightness to the stone facades. The Old City looks exactly how you imagined it, a representation of Edinburgh’s deep history and cosmopolitan present. The city continues to reveal itself to you beyond the open stretch of the Royal Mile and inside the thin meandering alleyways.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

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Day 2

Edging the Highlands

The city rises and the sunlight washes over the nearby sea. The Roman ruins known as Cramond Roman Fort look over cobalt water. Pillars and a metope remain. After breakfast, you meet your guide and are prepared for the sensational sights to come. You spend the day outside of the city on a full-day tour exploring Edinburgh’s surroundings. Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that borders the city and rises 823 feet at its peak, passes you by. The Scottish Highlands conjure whispers of legendary warriors and unparalleled scenery.

Experience your first magical site at the impressive Tantallon Castle, located in East Lothian. The ruins are set at the edge of the cliff and overlook Bass Rock. It was home to the Douglas family until the 17th century. Stone walls continue to line the cliff side near the castle ramparts. The curtain wall stands almost 50 feet tall and 12 feet thick. At the Douglas family’s strongest point the wall reached 300 feet long. The sheer immensity of the remains offer insight into the castle’s former glory. You can hear the sea crash against the base of the rocky cliff.

A slight breeze brushes through your hair. The scent of the sea merges with the historic damp rock. Manicured grassland fills the open spaces and shimmers against the light hued stone of the outer court. The pale blue sky opens up around you. In the afternoon you have the opportunity to enjoy the flavors of a local whisky distillery, which is a part of the local heritage. Your guide takes you through the distillery and the smoky and honeyed aromas of the local spirit captivate you.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 3

Scottish Firsts

St. Andrews is a quiet town with a verdant field rushing up against its historic buildings. A small brook winds around the cityscape and a peaceful stone-arched bridge bends over the water. The town is home to the first university in Scotland, constructed in the 15th century. The town holds the title of the golf’s birthplace. A sweet and salty scent fills the air and rises from the nearby sea. The lush grasslands encircle the old stone buildings until reaching the blue-gray water. The West Port is an old gate town that continues to welcome people into the city center.

The old cathedral now lays in ruin and holds centuries of history, from its consecration in the 14th century to its demise in the 16th century during the Scottish reformation. The towers of the main façade continue to cast shadows on the cathedral’s old outline. The panorama from St. Rule’s Tower allows you to take in the cathedral’s size, St. Andrew’s colorful buildings, and the backdrop of the glistening sea brushing up against the cliffs. Continue on to the fishing village of Fife to witness a different type of seaside charm and Scottish heritage.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 4

A Garden View

After breakfast, your private transfer meets you at the hotel and takes you to the train station for your first class ride to Inverness. The train is comfortable and plush. The seats offer you an unadulterated view of the lower Highlands. The stone buildings and cobblestone streets of Edinburgh soon fade away. The lush plains lead you away from the cityscape and around rising hills. The landscape looks painted onto the horizon, almost unreal in its pristine beauty. The train runs over long stone archways and you can see castle towers rising above distant tree lines.

Highland cattle, known for their bushy hair and long horns, graze in the grassland. You reach Inverness in what feels like no time. The remainder of the day is yours to explore the city at your leisure. The city sits on the banks of River Ness. The name sounds familiar because of its proximity to the fabled Loch Ness. The postcard-worthy Inverness Castle looks over the calm river. Cathedral towers and the white suspension bridge create the city’s skyline. The city in its current form dates back to the 19th century and maintains its connection to beauty and world famous salmon fishing. Take a stroll to Ness Island and cross the Victorian footbridges. The aroma of the riverbanks mixes with the scent of mature fir and sycamore trees.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 5

Lochs and Ruins

The outside of Inverness is rife with legend that verges on fairytale. The day begins with a visit to Uquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. The famous lake shimmers bright blue and reflects the various colors of the sky. The surrounding landscape glows with lush hillsides that rise out of the water. The ruins date back to the 13th century and create a unique site against the banks of the fable loch. After your visit to the castle, you will set out on a cruise across Loch Ness in search of the mythical Nessie and an opportunity for an unparalleled view of the scenery.

Leave the shores behind and find tranquility on the water. Water rises up and sprinkles the air with cool and pure mist. You have a 360-degree view of the rolling mountains that line the lakeside. The ruins of Urquhart Castle look more prestigious and fantastical when set amongst the trees. You may not find Nessie trolling beneath the water’s surface and the boat’s ripple; what you do find, however, is bucolic and peaceful. The ship docks and you return to Inverness for the evening.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 6

Entering a Storybook

The Isle of Skye is Scotland’s second largest island and contains 50 miles of moors draped in velvet, craggy towering mountains, glistening lakes, and impressive cliffs. Mist often rises from the sea and drifts over the mountaintops before disappearing in the midmorning sun. The ethereal landscape flows into pure fantasy around Trotternish. When you reach Staffin Bay you find basalt bluff. The cliffs and pinnacles look as though the land slipped downward into itself. Craggy rock faces peek out of the thin layers of grass.

Cliffs poke and point through the carpet of vegetation. Past the rugged terrain takes you to Fairy Glen. Mounds of earth poke through the landscape and look like houses built by fantastical creatures. Waterfalls spring through the greenery and fill natural pools. The trees are thin, and their branches meander upwards. The forest floor is riddled with iridescent moss beneath equally green leaves. Your time on the Isle of Skye takes you beyond the Highlands and into a world of make-believe.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 7

Moving with Steam

The 19th century castle continues to rise above the trees and peer into the water. The morning is crisp and you can hear the gentle current winding around the city’s edge. After breakfast, your private transfer escorts you to the train station where you meet the Jacobite. The steam train takes you back in time. The smooth black varnish of the engine glints in the sunlight. Board the first class cabin and watch the station retreat into the distance. The first class cabin looks like something out a novel or film, transporting you into the romantic period.

The patterns of the seats have a crowned image and the tables are dressed for tea. Travel over stone arched bridges. Watch the lush grassy hills flow into graceful rivers. Move through the highest pass in Britain called Ben Nevis. The ride itself is a combination of delight and historical romance. When you arrive in Fort William you continue onward to Oban. The waterfront town is peaceful and situated on a charming bay. The pubs are filled with locals conversing jovially. The water twinkles beneath the historic homes and fishing trolleys. The two-story arches of McCaig’s Tower stand atop the hillside and can be seen from the shore.

What's Included:

included

Tour

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 8

Continuing the Highs of the Highland

The view out the island of Mull is stunning when the sunlight rises over the horizon. Stone buildings reflect a silvery light and the water takes on its earlier cobalt hue. Duart Castle was restored in 1912 and stands above a small bluff at the water’s edge. The strong ramparts provide an iconic image of a medieval castle. The 13th century edifice was home to MacLean clan for centuries and contains stories steeped in history and mythology. It is an easy walk from the ferry terminal to the castle that takes you along the water’s edge.

The foothills around the water turn into mountains and give an imposing ambiance that dwarfs the castle. When you are ready your private transfer meets you back at the hotel for your return journey to Edinburgh. En route you can venture through the Trossachs, a woodland ravine filled with the natural greenery and rippling waters that are always breathtaking. You arrive at your hotel in the early evening and find the cozy historic streets of the city comforting.

What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Accommodation

included

Breakfast

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Day 9

Always in View

The sea is calm against the beaches and cliffs at the edge of the city. The pink petals that grace the trees in the Meadows park float in the breeze and garnish the walkways. The familiar form of Edinburgh Castle takes shape in the sunlight. The streets begin to crowd people on their way to work. You delight in the sounds of the city coming to life. The floral aroma of fresh brewed tea fills the air. Soon your private transfer will arrive to escort you to the airport. You sit at breakfast in reverie, wondering if the past days were imagined. You sip your tea, eat your breakfast, and remember with fondness that magnificent Highlands you discovered.

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What's Included:

included

Transfer

included

Breakfast

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Trip Highlights

  • Traverse the landscape on a historic train route inside the first class compartment of an antique steam train
  • Taste the celebrated flavors of a locally handmade single malt whisky
  • Tour the exceptional grounds of Edinburgh Castle to see the Scottish Crown Jewels
  • Explore the incomparable mountain passes and unparalleled forests of the Highlands
  • Discover an array of castles restored throughout the centuries
  • Enjoy a cruise around the fabled waters of Loch Ness
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Detailed Description

Scotland is more than castles and mountains, or whisky and lochs. This discovery tour of Scotland is handcrafted to show you the wonders of the landscape and depths of history. Discover medieval towns and dine in cosmopolitan restaurants situated in centuries-old structures. Stand at the top of a mountain for a marvelous view of the rolling foothills and look out over the cobalt sea to view castle ruins in the distance. Whether by railway, walking, or driving, you will embrace the beauty of Scotland in all its forms, situated on the heels and in the heights of the Highlands.

Your Scottish adventure begins in Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. The energy is palpable, filled with a mixture of cosmopolitan vigor and historic importance. Edinburgh Castle stands like a beacon, recognizable from every direction. You meet your guide for a half-day tour that takes you through the castle and along the historic stones that pave the Royal Mile. Outside of the city you are taken to a collection of castles that have watched over the countryside, many of which now lay in romantic disarray. The lochs are surrounded by sensational greenery and reflect the undulating scenery.

You visit a local whisky distillery and can taste the honey-colored finished product if you feel inclined. A day trip to St. Andrews takes you to the charming university town that also claims to be as the birthplace of golf. Whether wandering around the historic cathedral, visiting the nearby fishing villages, or playing a round on the famous course, the day provides an amalgamation of wonder. Your first-class train to Inverness lets you relax in luxury en route. The countryside passes by and you have a pure view of grazing cattle, rolling hills, and the lushness Scotland is known for. The ruins of Urquhart Castle are located on the fringes of Loch Ness’s banks. After your stroll around the grounds you will depart for a cruise on the legendary waters of the lake.

The scenery around you is as magnificent, as is a possible sighting of the mystical Loch Ness monster. Eilean Donan is a breathtaking castle located against the backdrop of the sea. The remaining structure maintains an ethereal ambiance. Continue to the Isle of Skye to experience a truly unique landscape that will remind you of a fantasyland. Relax on a classic train journey that has been rated one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. Settle into Oban and witness the seaside village and its quaint atmosphere. You return to Edinburgh by way of the magnificent Trossachs, an area of ancient woodland and marshes. Your private transfer will meet you at your hotel and take you to the airport for your flight home. You may be departing the Highlands but you will always carry the inspired pieces of scenery with you. 

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Starting Price

$2695 per person (excluding international flights)

This trip is customizable for your private travel.
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What's Included

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.

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